Dan Willis redefines "virtuoso" with a evocative look at the post minimalist work of Erik Satie.
Brent Black / www.bop-n-jazz.com
Who is Dan Willis you may ask? Willis is perhaps the most prolific woodwind specialist working the improvisational mecca that is New York City. With an arsenal of 11 different wind instruments the musical pedigree of this truly astounding virtuoso runs from Broadway to performances or recording alongside such luminaries as Michael Brecker, Bono, and Ray Charles. The Satie Project II is of course a continuation of his harmonic exploration of the work of overlooked French composer Erik Satie.
There is an intriguing dynamic tension, a melodic undercurrent of mystery that carefully weaves a meticulously crafted path through these layers of lyrical texture where Willis utilizes his amazing sensibility of tone and timbre as needed with a more open ended spatial context of delivery. The development from the first somewhat more organically centered project to this imaginative reharm of some sadly forgotten works is at times breathtaking and at other times exploring a more free form approach allowing for a unique rhythmic development to chart the slightly unorthodox approach to the harmonic road less traveled. A contemporary inspired acoustic riff on what is for some third stream or chamber jazz yet this whimsical instrumentation pushes the expectations of what the norm is considered to be and what the norm can be in the hands of a master.
Chamber jazz or new American music are generic labels at best that conjure up the traditional expectations while forcing an unconscious limitation of the open thought processes needed to assimilate just where this sonic adventure may take us. The use of electric guitar, accordion and B3 Organ allows for a far more realistic representation of just where composer Satie may have been coming from if his work were being introduced for the first time today. As intricate and nuanced with delicious subtleties as this harmonic exploratory is, the re imaging of exactly what is improvisational chamber music is astounding. Satie's music is turned into a virtual lyrical organism of pulsating rhythms and undulating grooves while remaining true to the authenticity of the original work.
Personnel: Dan Willis: Oboe, Soprano, Tenor and Baritone Saxophones, Piccolo, English Horns, Clarinet, B.C., Contra B.C., Duduk, Zurna, Chinese Flute, Hiririchi, Yokobue and EWI; Pete McCann: Electric Guitar; Ron Oswanski: Accordion, B3 Organ, Wurlitzer Electric Piano; Kermit Driscoll: Electric and Double Bass; John Hollenbeck: Drums; Richard Sosinsky: Double Bass (11); Todd Low: Ehru; Entcho Todorov: Violin; Mark Vanderpoel: Electric Bass (7); Pablo Rieppi: Marimba, Vibraphone, and Pitched Gongs.